c1908 Lewis motorcycle

Vivian Lewis Limited

Vivian Lewis Limited and its predecessor the Lewis Cycle and Motor Works produced a large number of motorcycles - by Australian standards at least - from the motor triplet of 1899 until the end of production in the mid 1920s. My Lewis dates from 1908-9, and is an example of "The Famous 3 h.p. Water-Cooled Motorcycle" that headed the five-model range described in the period 32-page Lewis catalogue.

1908 Lewis water cooled motorcycle

The full side valve motor used in my bike is an example of the second generation of water cooled Lewis engines, either sourced or copied from the Stevens Motor Manufacturing Company of Wolverhampton. Earlier, Lewis used Minerva engines extensively, before building their first water cooled machines in 1905. They later  used Precision, JAP and even Villiers motors. Cycle parts were generally Chater Lea, with the usual bits and pieces tacked on: Brooks saddles, Millenium rear carrier and stand, Bosch magneto...

But all these pieces went together into what was arguably the most distinctive of the "mass-produced" Australian motor cycles. With extensive used of nickel plating, including wheels, belt rim and the brass tanks and radiator, the water-cooled Lewis is a stunner in the veteran beauty stakes.

1908-9 Lewis water-cooled

My Lewis is coming along nicely - it is in one piece and running for the first time for many, many years. I sneaked a small test ride, and can report that it seems to be a pleasant, quiet and smooth machine. Not too much power on display as yet, so the Rudge can rest easy. There are still the usual things to tidy up before some paint and plating to make it look a bit more respectable. Spurred on by the restoration, I have begun to put together the definitive web collection of Lewis material: The Lewis Project.

Copyright Leon Mitchell 1999-2008

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